Conquer Mt.Pulag: Playground of the Gods

Saturday, March 09, 2013

March is my favorite month of the year primarily because it is my birth month :) To mark this new chapter in my life, I decided to conquer a mountain. Not just any mountain but the playground of the Gods, Mt. Pulag. 
tweaked by Maki
Planning Phase
Like most of my travels, I decided to invite my office mates. I initially planned a DIY trip but since ALL of us are first timers, we decided to secure a slot with Travel Factor which offers package tour to Mt. Pulag every month. The fee is 4,100php per person. Check trip schedule and package inclusions here.

There are several travel and mountaineering groups that offer package tour to the park and the cost is almost the same (Prices range from P3,800 to P4,500). DIY trip is also an option with the help of Mt. Pulag National Park Office.

Preparation Phase
Honestly, I was a little worried because my experience in mountain climbing was limited to short and easy treks like in Osmena Peak, Cebu. Not only that, I don't have the necessary hiking gears and survival kits. I don't even have a hiking shoes.

dapat plakado parin ang pez kahit nasa bundok! lol
Thanks to my mom's ukay ukay fab finds and borrowed stuff from my friends. I now have 75% chance of surviving the extreme temperature in the mountains. BTW, I'd like you to meet my first ever North Face pack, Jimmy. Yes, it has a name. Cheers to our many years of backpacking together! :)

***The Climb***
I never imagine how hard it is to climb Mt. Pulag.  All I know is that it stands at 2,922 meters above sea level making it the third highest peak in the Philippines(highest in Luzon). We arrived in Baguio City at around 4 in the morning. After breakfast, we rode a monster jeep that took us to the DENR office and the Ranger station.
the monster jeep West Virginia
The whole trip was rough, and the zig zag path is unbearable. It felt as if I was going to throw up anytime. Good thing, the fantastic views of the cordillera mountains and the river offered a magnificent respite.
My favorite Cordillera Mountains :)
After a brief orientation at the DENR office, we continued the journey to the ranger station. When we arrived, there are a lot of mountaineers gathered around the place. We had lunch, and we immediately prepare for the climb.

The Journey up to the campsite is rewarding and exhausting at the same time. There was no heavy rainfall along the way, but the trail is a bit challenging for first timers. I was expecting a walk-in-a-park climb, but certainly this one is not. This is supposedly the easiest trail! Thank God I prepared for this climb. Just so, you know, I run every weekend for two months to condition myself. :)

Camp 2 Extension - I am so proud of this shot! I can't imagine a kit lens can capture this great view! :)

I decided not to take tons of pictures just so I can savor the moment. Naks! But really, I promised myself that I would preserve this experience well in my memory. Though I was exhausted, I still managed to stop and marvel at the views. It is not every day that I get to see this wonder. We reached Camp 2 extension at around 5 in the afternoon. I was dead tired I wanted to sleep in our tent right away. TF coordinators prepared our dinner as soon as we get there. They know we were hungry and exhausted :)
Oh ayan iba na picture mo haha
my office mate Maki
I love this orange knitted sweater!
Happy campers :)
I fell asleep after eating. I was really tired and cold. I woke up in the middle of the night because of my urge to pee. The problem was I am afraid to go out alone. I don't know where the hell was the latrine. I went out and walked a few meters away from the tents and did what I had to do. Sorry, Mount Pulag my bladder can only take up 1 liter of urine.

The Summit Assault

There are four major trails up the summit: the Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan and the Ambaguio trail (from Nueva Vizcaya). For beginners, the Ambangeg trail is the best option. We got up at around 3 in the morning. This way we will reach the summit in time to witness the famous sunrise and sea of clouds.

I was praying hard because I know the weather up there is extremely unpredictable. The month of March is considered as the start of summer but getting a bad weather, and zero visibility are not impossible.
Photos by Boni Andino
Everything around us was pitch black. The hike was tough, as usual. We hike on rocky, wet, slippery and steep ground. The headlamp was really of great help because your hands will somehow support your balance. I struggled on the first hour. It was extremely cold and dark. I wasn't able to wear my glasses because I think it will be useless when it gets foggy. My eyesight is poor when it is too dark.

We finally reached the summit after two hours. We found a good place to watch the sunrise. We could see the sea of clouds and the stars through the dark skies. An hour had passed, but there was no sunrise. It started to rain. I almost cried. We were there, close to heaven, but we did not witness the majestic sunrise and sea of clouds. The odds were not in our favor :(
Photos in the Summit
With temperature plunging as low as 5 degrees Celsius,  TF coordinators instructed us to trek down to the campsite. The local tour guide said that the weather looks bad, so we had to leave if we don't want to freeze to death. I don't want to leave yet, I was hoping for the rain to stop. But it didn't.

We arrived at the camp back from the summit after almost two hours of trekking. Fog was covering the entire area, no sunlight and the temperature was excruciatingly cold. We had breakfast, and we packed our things. At 9 in the morning, we were instructed to break camp. The goal is to LEAVE NO TRACE.

Photo by Lloyd Irvin Balinas
Travel Factor participants
I was disappointed but still grateful to Mount Pulag. I was inspired by its vastness, grandeur and beauty. Though I did not witness the famous sunrise and sea of clouds, this was one of the most memorable moments in my life. At least now I have more reasons to come back. Mount Pulag wait for my revenge climb. When? I have no idea ^__^

Special thanks to my office mates Beb, Sheila, Janice, Rod and Maki. To our very mabait west virginia driver, Kuya Charlie. To fellow Travel Factor participants. To our local guides. To the residents of Kabayan Benguet. And to Travel Factor coordinators Boni, Emm, Billy, Mira and to my super crush Ron Rabadon :) You guys really KNOW ADVENTURE ^__^

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  1. Nice article about Pulag! I hope to climb this mountain when I visit the Phils again,

  2. Oh thanks! Yes, you should definitely visit Mt,Pulag :)

  3. Travel Up www.traveling-up.comMarch 10, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    Hi Milet, even if it rained during your trek to the summit, you still have some great shots at the Camp 2 extension and from the first day. Congrats on surviving Mt. Pulag! :)

  4. Waah Thank you Kara! I'll go back to Pulag this May, hindi ako susuko para sa sea of clouds :)

  5. Good read Milet, this post really gave justice to our adventure. Thanks for including some of my photos, they blended very well, hehe. In your return, you should know where the latrines are :))

  6. Thanks to your wide angle lens Lloyd! :) Sana may sea of clouds na pag balik namin. May revenge climb din ba kayo nila Jap?

  7. Oo nga, sana matiempuhan nyo na sa pagbalik nyo. As of now wala pa kaming napag-usapan due to other trip line-ups, hehe, pero definitely babalik din kami for a revenge!! It's a must until we get to capture the sea of clouds :)

  8. So proud and honored to be one of your travel buddies!!! At dahil pinalitan mo yung pic ko, cge we'll be back this May 2013!!! Thank you cause "I get to travel" hahahahaha!!!

  9. yeah! Sige sabi mo yan ah, May 2013 leggo! :)

  10. yeah! sabi mo yan ah May 2013 leggo!

  11. Can I just say—you look so cute in your hiking gear! Love the polka dot pants! :) Hope the sea of clouds will show up on your next climb! :)

  12. Thanks Nikka! Let's cross our fingers :)